Last week a professor at the University of Vermont uploaded a video criticizing what he dubbed the “secular religion” of race at the school. Professor Aaron Kindsvatter said he was afraid to make his comments because he doesn’t want his current or former students to think he is dismissing genuine complaints of discrimination they might have faced. But he said that on campus there is now a new form of discrimination taking place.
“This discrimination is against whiteness, it is today,” he said. He continued, “So whiteness falls under the umbrella, in the derogatory meaning of the word, falls under the umbrella of critical social justice…The thinking that informs it is so crude and so lacking in falsifiability.”
“I first heard of ‘whiteness’ when a faculty member offered to help me with it, like it was some kind of disease,” he said. “It was a dehumanizing experience…I just couldn’t believe that someone would denigrate another person by their race in such a crude way on a progressive campus.
“I know it happens in society, I just didn’t expect it to happen in my workplace.”
Kindsvatter goes on to criticize plans to adopt policies based on Ibram Kendi’s definitions of racist and anti-racist. He notes that under these definitions, no one can disagree with CRT without being deemed racist.
The clip concludes with a series of requests made to the university. “Would you please stop reducing my personhood to a racial category in your teach-ins,” he said.
He also asked that the school, “Please stop telling me my views are harmful just because they are more moderate than yours are.” He added, “I have read Kendi and DiAngelo and I do not find wisdom there.”
You can probably imagine how this went over at the university. Naturally, a student at the school is claiming this soft-spoken professor is a threat to the safety of “students of color”.
After a white professor claimed he was discriminated against for his “whiteness,” a petition that has garnered almost 1,000 signatures is calling for his resignation…
Senior Josephine Mercado, President, and founder of UVM Sisters of Color Started the petition. Social justice work is not a priority for UVM SOC, Mercado said, but as her concern for the safety of her sisters grew as she continued watching Kindsvatter’s video, so did her motivation to act.
“I just felt deep deep sadness at the fact this is a UVM professor, this is an educator, this is a counselor. This is someone who is obligated by UVM Common Ground values to protect students, especially the students of color who have been repeated victims…on campus,” she said.
The student newspaper is basing the threat claim on the fact that someone posted a comment on the video saying, “In my case, If I’m ever confronted I’m going to tell them to go to hell,” one comment stated. “There will be no discussion. And if they persist, I’m going to knock the shit out of them.” Kindsvatter replied, “Damn straight.” I looked for the comment and didn’t see it so maybe he deleted it. Here’s the petition which now has nearly 2,000 signatures. A sample of the demands:
We, select members affiliated with UVM Sisters of Color, in coalition with the greater UVM community call upon the immediate resignation of UVM Associate Professor Aaron Kindsvatter. His most recent video, “Racism and the Secular Religion at the University of Vermont” is harmful to our campus’ community of color. His demands to remove anti-racist work done by administrators on the basis that it “reduces his identity to his race” defends his privilege and denies accountability that campus groups have spent years advocating for…
Having conversations around anti-racism and acknowledging the role of whiteness in systemic racism has been supported by every department on campus, as it is rooted in our campus’ common ground values. Speaking out against this work is harmful when you cannot hold yourself accountable and begin practicing good allyship. This video is particularly harmful towards the community of color through his calls to organize. When identity groups have been repeatedly targeted in dangerous manners on campus, this rhetoric is concerning to say the least.
Professor Aaron Kindsvatter’s “i-don’t-see-race” mentality has been proven to be harmful towards any kind of societal racial justice and for that reason we are demanding his immediate resignation.
The university released a statement saying “We will continue to lean into our [diversity equity and inclusion] efforts, and in so doing, create further opportunities to strengthen our community.” The statement also said students who want to be transferred out of his class will be allowed to do so.
As you’ll see, this video is very similar to one that a Smith College staffer released last month. Jodi Shaw wound up resigning because of the “racially hostile environment” she faced. But her story was confirmed a few days later by the NY Times. Prof. Kindsvatter has tenure so he probably can’t be fired over this but that doesn’t mean students won’t continue to demand it. Here’s the full video that students think is a threat to their safety.